I’ve got a terrible confession to make. Sunday stresses me out!! I don’t mean the regular kind of stress, I mean the kind where I can feel the pressure building in my head. And I have to stop and take several deep breaths to slow my heart. It’s terrible! Here I am helping my family have a connection with God, and all I can do is wish I were able to stay home.
The anxiety comes from several directions. I’m sure you can name a few for yourself. But I made a promise to God when I was baptized that I would be at church. So staying home isn’t an option for me. So how do I get through the terrible anxiety church brings me?
Well, I’ve found a few ways. First, I remind myself of the words of a blessing I got several years ago. I was in college, and was given a chance to teach a few freshman classes. It was so exciting! But the day before my first class, I started to panic and lose my voice.
I got a priesthood blessing, and the Lord told me to remember that the message I shared was more important than the challenges I had to face to share it. That bit of advice has stuck with me, and I continue to lean on it during these hard Sundays. I teach Primary. And the lessons are amazing! I learn so much. So when my anxiety is overwhelming me, I remind myself that the message is more important than the challenge I face to present it.
Next, I try to give myself extra time. Nothing triggers my anxiety or makes it worse than being in a huge hurry. During those times it’s like my mind will get ahead of my body, and I can’t move fast enough. Then I get agitated and impatient which spreads the anxiety to the whole family. So not rushing is a vital step for me.
Like rushing, exhaustion is a terrible trigger for my anxiety. When I have stayed up too late the night before, or for many nights in a row, it weakens my body’s ability to fight. And often triumph comes only after a fight. I am fighting my anxiety to be at church. So I have to remember to get adequate rest so I can win that fight.
I have also found great strength in prayer. Before every lesson I teach, I say a prayer asking Heavenly Father to guide the lesson to bless the students. And sometimes I pray for peace and confidence when I have to teach the grownups. (They are scarier than teaching kids.) Last week, not my best week, my prayer was almost a mini tantrum, as I told the Lord I knew I needed to be there, and would He PLEASE make things work so that I could stand being there. But every time, prayer is an amazing tool to fight my anxiety.
My favorite, hardest to use tool, is the powerful word “no.” I have found that I get terribly stressed when I have too much to do. One Sunday I didn’t say ‘no’, and found myself saying the closing prayer in Sacrament meeting, teaching Gospel Essentials in Sunday School, and then teaching a third hour Primary class. I went home and collapsed on the couch and was useless the rest of the day. But when I don’t over-commit myself, having an assignment can be delightful. Some Sundays knowing I have to teach is what gets me out the door.
Our Efforts Matter
Everyone’s anxiety looks different. But we all have the help of the same amazing God to help us through it. When the Savior suffered for all our sins, and all our infirmities, I feel He suffered through our anxieties too. He suffered those things so that He would know how to perfectly nurture, guide, and strengthen us as we fight through it now. We have no better ally than the Savior of the world.
So every week I am at church. It stresses me out like nothing else, and I really can’t put my finger on why. But I’m there. I’m there to keep my covenants, to let my family feel the Spirit that is there, and to contribute to the kingdom of God where I can. I hope someday it gets easier. But even if it doesn’t, I know that the Lord knows my offering wasn’t easily given. I know that He understands. And I know He is proud of me for trying.
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.